Just Finished my Halloween Read…The Women in the Walls

The WomenThe Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, so ‘technically’ I’ve not ‘just finished’ The Women in the Walls, I’m re-posting a review that I did previously for Goodreads and my author blog last year. But, it’s the month for Halloween and I thought I should post something appropriate and I rarely read horror books. So there you go, full disclosure! Now, what about the book?

The Blurb… Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations

My Thoughts… I’m not sure why I read horror books now and again…

This was a chance pick-up in the library because the cover and blurb were enticingly creepy. The overall style and story is good, picking up lots of horror-story stock items: isolation, mental instability, odd family history and of course, the spooky old house…

I really liked the first 3/4 of the book, where the psychological build-up was great. My problem – similar to most of the few horror books I’ve read – is that the actual reveal of what IS spooky or horrifying tends to switch me off. It’s almost the opposite of how I find horror films: the reveal scares me but the build-up is cheesy.

Anyway, I liked the characters and set up in this book – the background story to the horror was good as well, with some nice Shakespearian-esque gruesomeness thrown in! Young adult horror, but not if you’re squeamish 😉

Goodreads won’t let me do 3.5* and I always round up on there, but here I can set the rule and it’s a 3.5* – or maybe a 3 and 3/4 read – or maybe I rate it spook-a-licious, but not a full spook-tastic…?

Just Finished…Freakonomics

Freakonomics - CoverSo, non-fiction month… I don’t often read non-fiction, but I do really enjoy them when I do. I started Freakonomics about a couple of years ago, read the first couple of chapters/essays and enjoyed it, but then popped it back into the bedside table pile and didn’t get back to it. This time, spurred on by the need to read a non-fiction book in the month, I just grabbed it and read! The way the chapters are divided over different subjects, but with vague links between them, makes it very easy to read and the style with a conversational tone taking you through their theories is a nice change for a non-fiction book.

The idea behind Freakonomics is the juxtaposing of some quite outlandish ideas, with core economic theories and approach to evaluation to give alternative perspectives on areas as diverse as violent crime statistics and the importance of parenting. Below is a snapshot from the blurb and picks out some of the best questions explored in the essay chapters:

“Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?”

I’d definitely recommend this for anyone who likes examining the world from different, less conventional perspectives. Their website, http://freakonomics.com/ has all sorts of articles, videos and more covering a lot of other content on other subjects, so is worthwhile checking out if you like the sound of this book. I’ll definitely be adding Super Freakonomics to my TBR list – but might need to leave tackling it to another year! 🙂

Overall 4* for this

Just Finished…If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay - CoverSeveral friends have recommended If I Stay, by Gayle Forman, to me and it has sat languishing in my bedside table for a while now – this cover is for the version of the book I have and so must have been bought around the time of the film release. I can’t remember now if I bought this copy or if it was given to me to read – I have a feeling it’s the latter, but definitely can’t think who it came from. My author buddy Tony Talbot read and reviewed this on the Aside from Writing blog ages ago, so you can check out his thoughts there (spoiler alert!) if you like (also, it’s evidence of the recommendation!)

My thoughts… 

Before you are 20 pages in to this book, you are shocked into experiencing the same trauma as Mia. There’s so little pre-amble to the crash that it is shocking, even though you know that is what the book centres on before you start. You just don’t want this kind of thing to happen to characters like them – you feel how unfair and sad it is, when this type of tragedy strikes.

I found the comments and interviews (from the film actors) with Gayle Forman really interesting at the end, putting the story into context with her own experience of grief. There are so many facets of grief considered through the story: parental love for a child/younger sibling; romantic loss and that of losing your parents. Mia – sitting outside herself – is a very human, emotive vehicle for considering all these things, whilst reflecting back on the life she has lived and the relationships that have been built around her at that point.

This is, as you would expect, a difficult read in places. I think Gayle does a great job of managing the hard emotional parts of the present, with the backstory of the past. It has the mix in the book, just as you do with grief itself, of being overwhelmed by emotion and loss in one instant, then reminiscing and feeling the warmth of love, family and friends the next. I teared up a few times whilst reading, especially in the sections on Teddy, which Mia felt almost with a parental love for her much younger brother.

I think this is a story that will linger with you for a long time, whether it’s because of shared experiences of grief and how poignantly this is told within the story, or because of the emotion you feel for Mia’s fictional family and those of anyone in real life you experiences these similar freak tragedies.

This is a relatively short book and without formal chapters, you tend to read on through the scenes. Whilst very sad, I enjoyed this book, in so much as it has lingered with me the last few days since finishing and I’d like to read more about the characters I met.

5*

Just Finished…Monsters by Emerald Fennell

Monsters

I picked Monsters up in the library because of the quirky cover. Reading the very brief blurb on the back it reminded me of a film from years ago with Kate Winslet (I think), where two odd friends have an unsavoury interest in murder.
The actual story was a bit of a surprise and didn’t unfold as I thought it might.

I’m not actually convinced that I ever read the name of the narrator of the story – if I did it was so infrequent that I missed it – and so it is odd to share such intimate knowledge of her strange and rather unhappy life without giving her the label of a name. Perhaps that is part of what the author was looking for, that as the reader there is an uncomfortable voyeurism to reading about this person and their experiences.

The story is well-written, from the point of view of a 12-13 year old, which sees her drifting through points of immature misunderstanding of an adult world to moments of real clarity, seeing the truth of people that maybe sits between being a child and an adult. The way she looks at her friendships and others feels very black and white, more childlike, as do the tempers she has.

Overall, this is an interesting read with well-rounded characters and a view into the painful and odd world of the narrator. Often the murder mystery element of the book drifts into the background whilst trivial seeming things take the centre. It’s not comfortable or fun to read, you feel pity for the narrator in many ways, but also can’t say that she is ever likely to become someone you would want to meet. She’s already pretty broken. 4*

(In terms of the reading challenge, I actually started off reading a political biography on Barack Obama, I still have it but am only about 50 pages into and it has about 800 to go… I’m not overly convinced that I’ll make it to the end of that one, perhaps it’s too far out of my comfort zone!)

Just Finished…Life and Laughing by Michael McIntyre

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The ‘2017 year of reading’ plan directed that November would be a comedy and so I bimbled around the library until I came across Life and Laughing by Michael McIntyre.

This the second autobiography of a comedian I’ve read in the last 12months and I enjoyed it even more than the first. If Graham Norton was the comedian I grew up with mainly through my late teens and early twenties with doggy-phone and So Graham Norton, Michael McIntyre is the one

The ‘2017 year of reading’ plan directed that November would be a comedy and so I bimbled around the library until I came across Life and Laughing by Michael McIntyre.

This the second autobiography of a comedian I’ve read in the last 12months and I enjoyed it even more than the first. If Graham Norton was the comedian I grew up with mainly through my late teens and early twenties with doggy-phone and So Graham Norton, Michael McIntyre is the one I’ve watched most recently over the last few years (this book is several years old now and takes you to the point where he began appearing on TV a lot).

Like Graham Norton’s book, I read ‘Life and Laughing’ in Michael’s voice – some of the sentences I could actually hear him saying and imagine him delivering them in one of his routines, head bobbing, cheeky grin and lots of running around the stage. I found – because I read it pretty quickly – that I also began throwing his style into my daily life, speaking to people at work in similar voice, which I had to stop pretty quick – my work life is just not that fun or exciting to justify impersonating a comedian as part of the daily grind.

Life and Laughing was funnier for me than Graham Norton’s book – although I laughed so loudly someone came to check I was OK when I was reading that, I chuckled, ‘lol’ed and SALTS (smiled and little then stopped) at this one all the way through. The observational comedy style that McIntyre has meant that virtually every page had funny-isms dropped onto it; he was writing about his past, but with his comedy eyes wide open all the time – even describing the set up and process of getting his writing room started at the beginning was good (if you’re interested, I’m writing my review on an old MacBook Pro c. 2011 13-inch-ish screen, which has a small crack in the right hand corner where I closed it on a book a couple of years ago – for safety purposes Magic Tape has been applied to prevent any tiny bits falling out).

My favourite thing about this book, behind the review of his life seen through comedy spectacles, was understanding how hard it is to achieve success as a comedian. Norton had similar struggles in his book and perhaps reading the two so close together brought this into greater focus for me. McIntyre shows you the true past behind the success – the long slog of years on a circuit of ‘jobbing’  stand-ups, multiple visits to Edinburgh Festival and everything in between where there’s little money coming in and lots going out as you try to achieve what is essentially a dream. How close must he have come to giving up on this, in order to have a ‘normal’ job that paid the bills? Perhaps it is passion or ambition, drive or something else that carries people to success – Michael seemed incredibly determined in his approach to his career, taking a booking for 12 months time and working in between to hone his skills.

Perhaps it takes someone so determined to succeed that they can live on an edge of huge debt without doing what many must do and ‘get a proper job’. It feels similar to being a writer in this sense – you can sit at home, writing away with no job trying to make it happen (or even in a coffee shop, a la J K Rowling), but many more must not be able to cope with the risk to home, comfort and the ability to eat something that isn’t a Tesco value meal…

The end of the book really made me think. McIntyre is a very positive, flexible comedian – he can do naughty as much as he can entertain families on his ‘Big Show’. Reading his story really made me appreciate what it must have taken to have held out and push to where he has gotten to today. I went into this book as a fan and came out really liking the man he seems to be (despite his revelations of being a stalker). I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of his comedy and also to people who are not ‘biography’ readers – I’m not myself generally, but this one was really worth it.

Rating: 5*

Just Finished…Anchor Leg by Jack Croxall

Anchor Led

The Blurb…

Stranded 750 million miles from Earth. Stranded with a saboteur, stranded with a killer.

Humanity has spilled out into the Solar System, into a succession of giant space stations known as the Relay. Seren Temples is a security apprentice running the Relay’s remote Anchor Leg. When sabotage strands her vessel near another damaged ship, Seren and her team are sent across to investigate. The second ship is a zero-G graveyard. Inside its vast hold, nothing but a single vial of frozen blood.

 

 

My Thoughts… This became part of my ‘clear the Kindle challenge’ after I’d downloaded a free copy (I think) ages ago on an Amazon giveaway day. We’ve previously review and featured author Jack Croxall on the blog A-G-E-S ago in 2013, and this is a very different style of book to the historical adventure that Tony read (you can check out our other posts HERE).

Anyway, what about Anchor Leg I (imagine) I hear you cry? Well, how fast did I get into this book? First page and I was transported into the middle of the interview taking place between two of our central characters… I was right there in the room with them, could picture everything and bonded with our lead character, Seren, immediately.

I found the story fast-paced with plenty of mystery and twists. I liked the attention to detail in the crew, apprentices and characters, that felt realistic and sci-if without being OTT, I feel non-sci fi fans (which I’m on the edge of) could read and enjoy this. This is a murder-mystery, conspiracy theory, adventure in space – with the younger characters adding a YA slant to your reading of this, whilst the logical, investigative approach of the lovely Seren makes it feel like a cop-drama in space.

There’s a nice touch of romance in this, that fits with the story as a whole without feeling that it was crow-barred in just to add that element. When you look at it this way, there are elements in this book to appeal to a wide range of readers, and it can neatly nudge you out of your comfort zone if crime, or sci-fi are not really your thing.

This is a great read and I would highly recommend the author based on my reading on Anchor Leg. 5

Just Finished…Slated by Teri Terry

Slated - CoverI really liked the concept of Slated – wiping the minds of young criminals to enable them to be reintroduced to society with improved behaviours – in a recognisable dystopian view of London.

The book is well-written and the characters have some depth to them – I particularly liked her adopted Mother. However, for my taste there was a lot of setup with not a huge amount of action – I suppose this might come in the future books in the series – but there was a lot of time spent running and talking, without much significant happening and so when I got to the end of the book I wasn’t really enticed to go further in the series and find out more about what was happening. 3* from me…